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IT Manager vs. System Administrator: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Information technology (IT) is a broad field that offers many career opportunities. Two common positions in IT are that of an IT manager and a system administrator. Though these roles share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between an IT manager and a system administrator, and we provide additional IT professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is an IT Manager?

IT Managers are responsible for the smooth operation of an organization’s computer systems and networks. They oversee the work of IT staff and make sure that all systems are running efficiently and securely. IT Managers also develop and implement strategies for using technology within an organization. They work with senior management to determine which technologies will best support the organization’s goals. IT Managers also budget for and purchase new computer hardware and software. They may also be responsible for training staff on how to use new technologies.

What is a System Administrator?

System Administrators are responsible for the upkeep, configuration and reliable operation of computer systems. They install software, schedule upgrades and perform maintenance tasks like backing up data and ensuring that systems are running smoothly. They also analyze system logs to identify issues and investigate solutions. System Administrators typically work in an office environment but may occasionally be required to work remotely. They typically work full-time but may be on-call outside of regular business hours in case of system emergencies.

IT Manager vs. System Administrator

Here are the main differences between an IT manager and a system administrator.

Job Duties

Both IT managers and system administrators have varied job duties, depending on the size of the company they work for and their specific responsibilities. System administrators typically perform technical tasks to ensure a smooth computing experience for employees. They might troubleshoot computer issues, install software, configure hardware or monitor network activity.

IT managers often oversee the entire IT department, which includes making sure system administrators have what they need to do their jobs successfully, as well as managing projects that involve IT resources. They might communicate with other departments about technology needs and provide IT support to non-technical employees who have questions. In addition, IT managers may also be responsible for hiring new system administrators and IT professionals.

Job Requirements

IT managers and system administrators typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. They might also pursue certifications to show their employers that they have the skills needed to perform their job duties. For example, system administrators can earn Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) certification to prove their proficiency in using Microsoft products. IT managers might also benefit from pursuing a master’s degree in business administration or another relevant field.

Work Environment

System administrators and IT managers can work in a variety of environments, depending on the company they work for. For example, system administrators may work in an office setting where they collaborate with other employees to solve technical issues. They may also travel to different locations to provide support to users who need assistance.

IT managers typically work in an office environment, but they may also travel to meet with clients or attend meetings. They may also spend time working remotely from home if their job requires them to do so.


Both IT managers and system administrators use technical skills to perform their jobs. However, IT managers also need leadership and management skills to oversee the work of other IT professionals, whereas system administrators typically do not have direct reports.

IT managers use communication skills when they interact with employees, clients and vendors. They also use analytical skills to assess the needs of their department or company and make decisions about which technologies to implement. Organizational skills are important for IT managers as they often oversee multiple projects at one time.

System administrators benefit from having customer service skills when they work with clients or customers who are experiencing technical issues. They also use problem-solving skills to diagnose and resolve technical problems. Because they often work with sensitive information, they also need to have strong security skills to protect data.


IT managers earn an average salary of $106,161 per year, while system administrators earn an average salary of $82,947 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the employee has.


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